The invasion of Ukraine has made us think of the fragility of international relations, and the danger posed by oligarchies and autocratic governments. Yes, we are all aware of the one who is responsible for this situation – a responsibility which is shared by many. Nevertheless, the conflict created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine reminds us of many other conflicts that are being waged in our world today. These conflicts do not receive as much media coverage, possibly because they are far from the so-called “first” world, and therefore do not affect the economy of the most powerful countries. They are, however, just as bloody and must be denounced in the same manner that we have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As we view this map, we come to realize that the vast majority of these conflicts are located in the southern hemisphere of the world (with an intense concentration of them in Africa and the Arab countries). In addition to the Russian-Ukrainian war, and its predecessor the Donbas war started in 2014, several other wars and conflicts have caused millions of victims. Some of them are:
1. The Yemen Civil War
After the 2014 coup, two sides vie for the Yemeni government. According to the UN, the number of deaths related to this war exceeds 377,000 (150,000 people in the fighting and another 227,000 deaths due to the indirect consequences of the conflict, such as lack of clean water, hunger, and disease).
2. The conflict in Burma
Violence (both political and ethnic) in Burma began in 1948 between various armed groups and the government of that country. More than 200,000 people have died during this conflict.
3. The Conflict in Afghanistan
The Afghan civil war is a complex conflict that started in 1978 and continued until 2021. The victims exceed 2,000,000 in number.
4. The war in the Tigray region
In the Tigray region (Ethiopia), an armed confrontation broke out between regional authorities and the federal government, which has caused more than 40,000 deaths so far.
5. The drug war in Mexico
Since 2006, the war against the drug cartels in Mexico has so far claimed more than 350,000 victims.
6. The Syrian Civil War
Following the 2011 anti-government protests, a civil war began in Syria that led to an international conflict. The victims during this war are estimated to exceed 586,000.
We could continue listing wars and conflicts, since the current list of armed conflicts exceeds fifty in number throughout the world (some of them initiated many decades ago).
The Vincentian question: What can be done? is most relevant when reflecting on so many warlike conflicts around the globe. We know what Saint Vincent de Paul did during the 17th century wars in France: he helped the devastated people and promoted actions to restore normality where the war caused so much damage. We also know that Frederic Ozanam worked tirelessly to bring peace and democracy to 19th century France (which also experienced numerous armed conflicts during that period). Many other Vincentians strove and continue to strive to bring peace to our world.
And we … can we do something? We can certainly ask God for peace and justice to reign. We can also denounce injustices in our media and social networks and thus, become “a voice of the voiceless”, not forgetting the people who suffer the most pernicious consequences of war … indeed, if we can act directly to aid those who live in war zones, then, let us get down to work and do it.
Communication Commission of the Vincentian Family.